Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent

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UPDATED: 1.4 million French march against gay ‘marriage’;police tear gas crowd, children

Jeanne Smits, Paris correspondent
By Jeanne Smits
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LifeSiteNews reporter Jeanne Smits directly witnessed the events that took place during this extraodinary event. She confirms the enormous numbers claimed by organizers and reports on many aspects either ignored or distorted by French and other media. This LifeSiteNews exclusive reports on what really happened during the demonstrations, including the totally uncalled for police tear gassing of some of her peaceful and prayerful friends and relatives.

Analysis

March 25, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) - According to organizers, nearly one and a half million people joined the third demonstration in five months against the legalization of same-sex “marriage” by the French government in Paris, on Sunday.

Meanwhile, large numbers of demonstrators who were unable to join the main venue – which had filled up by 3 p.m. – or who headed straight to the largest and most prestigious Parisian thoroughfare, the Champs-Elysées, were sprayed with tear-gas and beaten as they neared the presidential palace. Victims included children as young as 6 years old, elderly gentlemen, women of all ages, middle-aged priests and monks, and even a baby aged 10 months.

One boy, aged 14, named Lancelot, needed respiratory assistance for half an hour; another youth, Léonard, 17, was gassed and subsequently seized by riot police who threw him down the stairs at the entrance of a nearby subway station. Christine Boutin, leader of the mainstream Parti chrétien démocrate (Christian democratic Party), was also among the victims: she passed out after having been sprayed with tear-gas and lay unconscious on the street for several minutes.

Videos also show a woman demonstrator who was apparently deliberately knocked over by a police van being attended to by volunteer first-aid workers of the Order of Malta. Another young man, Tristan, told LifeSiteNews.com that he was gassed with a group of friends after sitting down in the street at the request of the armed forces.

The French media played down the police violence: all major radio, tv and other news sources spoke of “attacks” by violent young demonstrators against the police and armed forces, while the minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, publicly congratulated law enforcement officers for their “professionalism and cool-headedness.” However, dozens of videos posted on the Internet as well as eye-witness reports received from personal acquaintances of this author certify the opposite: unarmed and pacific, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators assaulted by the armed forces did no more than vociferate their disapproval of the draft law, if that: most of them were laughing and singing as they strolled down the “most beautiful avenue in the world” – as the French believe – and were suddenly attacked by the riot police.

Contrary to recent public demonstrations involving youths from the suburbs, no damage was caused and the young people and families involved were unarmed. No stones or Molotov cocktails were thrown, and there were virtually no attacks against the police who on several occasions let people through to the Champs-Elysées without offering much resistance.

Why did all these thousands of people – up to 40,000, according to the numbers quoted by the organizers of the “Manif pour tous’” (“Demonstration for all”) – decide to defy police orders not to march on the Champs-Elysées as had originally been planned? The ban had been made official for five days and had been confirmed by an emergency ruling on Wednesday afternoon. Hoqwcwe, the definitive itinerary and access points to the demonstration were only published by the “Manif pour tous” on the weekend. Frigide Barjot, the demonstration’s figurehead had previously announced that even if access to the Champs-Elysées were to be forbidden the March would go there all the same and plant tents to occupy the thoroughfare until some assurance would be given that the draft law would not be voted and enforced. She later backed down from this statement.

The symbolism of the Champs-Elysées is very important to the French. Military parades are held there on the 14th of July; it is where the Liberation parade took place on August 26th, 1944; soccer fans rallied there in their hundreds of thousands when France won the World Cup in 1998 and compact crowds gather every 31st December to see in the New Year. Political rallies were also held there, notably when hundreds of thousands of French demonstrated their support to general De Gaulle in the wake of the May-68 revolution.

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Even if the anti-gay “marriage” mobilization has been uniformly peaceful since the demonstrations began on November 17th, the powers that be are getting noticeably nervous about public opposition and the Champs-Elysées are way too close to the presidential palace (called the Elysée) for comfort. François Hollande, increasingly unpopular because of his handling of the economic crisis – latest opinion polls give him a meager 36% of popular approval – can certainly do without a major public hostile manifestation. Especially when his socialist predecessor François Mitterrand is known to have remarked, back in 1984: “When over one million people take to the streets, the government totters on its base.”

This may be the reason for police counts of demonstrators on Sunday afternoon. A few days ahead of the March, the Parisian police announced they were expecting some “100,000” participants, although the number of special trains and buses coming in from the French provinces was larger than two months ago. On January 13th the police had officially announced 340,000 participants as opposed to the million plus counted by the “Manif pour tous”.

This time round it had to be less. Official sources stopped their count at 300,000. They did so despite the fact that it had been given out beforehand that if the wide avenue behind the Arc de Triomphe where the demonstration was parked for five hours filled up – it can contain 1.2 million people – an additional avenue would be opened to accommodate the demonstrations. This took place at 3 p.m. An additional avenue was opened soon after, but despite this the crowds were so compact that many people literally spilled out onto the “place de l’Etoile” which separates the Champs from the Avenue de la Grande-Armée where the giant podium of the March was raised. This author witnessed part of the demonstration head-on from the balcony of a 6th floor apartment and can testify to the fact that the closely-knit, static crowd reached all the way to the end of the avenues between the Arc de Triomphe and the river Seine: some 6 kilometers.

This makes the “Manif pour tous” one of the most important demonstrations by far in the last thirty years. And it took many by surprise: most forecasters were expecting a lower turnout than two months ago, given the cost and bother of coming to Paris from the far away provinces, the more so because many large families came complete with all their children. Added to this is the fact that the demonstration is not claiming rights, benefits or public money. The French are voicing their opposition to same-sex “marriage” and “procreative rights” for homosexual couples as a matter of principle, in order to defend the community as a whole, the rights of children and the future of society itself.

These points were made by the many orators on the podium. Frigide Barjot has taken pains to keep politics and religion out of the “Manif pour tous”. However a number of representatives of the UMP, ex-president Sarkozy’s party, were allowed to speak. They are mostly in favor of legal civil unions as an alternative to same-sex “marriage” and over the years their party has promoted homosexual rights and criminalization of “homophobic hate-speech”. Left-wing politicians opposing gay “marriage” were also welcome, including a Trotskyite activist. Robert Lopez, the American professor who has publicly told of the problems he experienced as the child of a lesbian mother, told his story to enthusiastic applause. Gay men opposing same-sex “marriage” are among the organizers of the event. Adopted children witnessed to the importance of having a father and a mother to raise them, while adoptive parents told the crowd of the difficulties couples will experience when foreign countries refuse to let children in need of parents to travel to France if homosexuals are allowed to adopt here.

Jewish and protestant representatives were allowed to speak, as was a member of the Muslim brotherhood.

No Catholic bishop was invited to speak even though the vast majority of participants identify with Catholicism, sociologically at least, and it is an open secret that Sunday’s turnout was largely due to the Catholic hierarchy’s support.

Meanwhile, language that opponents to gay “marriage” and civil recognition of homosexual couples are finding increasingly difficult to stomach – calls from Frigide Barjot to applaud “the homosexuals” met with polite indifference – a certain ambiguity as regards the objectives of the march, and the sentiment that the advantage of previous demonstrations has not been pressed, all contributed to the nervousness of the crowds. Slogans like “Hollande resign” spontaneously arose while the organizers are still asking “Monsieur le Président” for a “dialogue” or a “referendum” about the draft law. Frigide Barjot’s main request was to obtain an interview with François Hollande today.

She also called the victims of Sunday’s police brutality “rioters” and “extremists,” implicitly justifying the use of teargas and violence against the crowds.

A spokesman for the government indicated early on Monday morning that the draft law will move ahead as planned. After a first reading at the National Assembly, it is scheduled to be discussed by the Senate in the beginning of April; second readings are expected and will take place if the Senate does not vote the text in identical terms.

Meanwhile, the socialist government is preparing other attacks on the family and the right to life. Embryo research is about to be voted into law: a whirlwind debate is expected at the National Assembly on Thursday. Child benefits are set to be cut for higher-income families. And as of Easter Sunday, abortion and contraception for under-age girls will be entirely funded by public money, making them 100% free.

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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